Surviving WW1 Service Records' Index

Whilst most will know the majority of service records for WWI were lost in bombing in 1940, for those soldiers who went on to re-enlist or carried on service after 1921 the War Department kept their files - and a long way from the danger of bombing! This index may tell you whether your ancestor's record still exists

Notes on Pre 1921 MOD retention records:

This is the index to ‘service records’ currently still held by the MOD records office for those persons with dates of birth pre 1901.

i.e. those who served after 1921 either having joined up initially before 1921 or had re-joined from previous service before 1921.

It contains over 340,000 individual names with a date of birth, service number and the MODs own reference numbers for their records held.

The importance of this collection is that the vast majority of service records sets for the WWI period were destroyed in bombing in 1940 –for anyone however who re-enlisted or continued service it is possible that their service records are still kept by the MOD and survive –this index lists all those that are in this category.

If a searcher knows, or suspects their ancestor served beyond 1921 and cannot find an existing service record elsewhere but has not tried a direct request to the MOD previously this index can help to confirm if a record survives.

Important notes on this index:

  1. Service numbers - (or more accurately, ‘army numbers’) appear to be an inter-war type therefore they may not necessarily match either later numbers or the previous WWI regimentally issue numbers.

        There are often noted on the Medal index cards in pencil also.

        If there is more than one number noted it is listed also.


  1. Regiments –Whichever regiment the soldier was last in- so they may not be the same as previous service, some are poorly described or not noted at all, so don’t be surprised to see units that didn’t come into existence until much later listed, around 10% have a regiment included.


  1. Block allocation -Service number prefixes may give some indication of which type of service (i.e. the type of regiment or whether someone was an officer rank), this isn’t a guarantee however.


  1. Occasionally a duplicate record is also referenced- as they have differing MOD numbers these have been left as it may well be there are 2 separate records for this person.


Fields of information include:

Account/Item code: The MODs own filing references

Service number 1:

Service number 2:






Date of Birth

Some records will only have the date of birth, surname and initials and the service number and MOD's own codes, if in doubt -contact the MODs own records centre just to be sure.

Notes on Original document: If an unintelligible part of the original file was placed into the regiment column it’s been kept, these may or may not be a unit designation –although many are probably just errors on the original index, they are included in the possible event they may assist.

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Hints & tips

Searching for a name

In the event of searching for someone with a title (i.e. the earl of…etc) search for the title only.

Double barrelled surnames are separated with a hyphen.

Famous names include:


HM King George VI

HRH Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother)

Adrian Carton De Wiart VC 

How to apply for these records directly from the MOD.

This official Government webpage has all the up to date forms needed to get started with an application.


When dealing with any set of records as large as this errors are inevitable either in the original transcription done in-house at the MOD and its predecessor the War Office or later in conversion into a proper database by FWR.

If you notice anything, please let us know!

E&OE 2017 FWR